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radiantphotography.com > Blog > 2011 > February

Radiant recently had the opportunity and challenge to shoot the Oldenberg “Flashlight” sculpture on the UNLV campus for Desert Companion magazine.  I say challenge because the shoot required an evening shot of a matte black sculpture, lit only by mixed ambient lighting, on a college campus that has students walking about.  So I packed up my tilt-shift lenses one Saturday night and headed on down to UNLV to see what I could do.

Being a weekend evening, I didn’t have too many bodies walking through my images.  I was also able to pull long exposures to yank some color out of the sky, courtesy of the reflected light pollution from the Las Vegas Strip.  Now the challenge was getting a three-story matte black object to maintain detail and color fidelity from top to bottom.  The area was lit with a mix of high-pressure sodium vapor, mercury vapor and halogen light sources…a perfect white balance nightmare.  However I brought along some flash heads and a battery pack so I could at least fill the shadowy sculpture with some color correct fill light, right?  Well, kinda.  I did a bit of light painting, but with the intensity of the light needed to light the black monolith, there was just too much flash spill onto the surrounding trees and cement.  So I went the multi-exposure, multi-white balance route.

A series of exposures were made for the highlights all the way to the shadow details that I’d later tone map in Photoshop (no, I don’t use tone mapping software, as I prefer to do it manually layered in PS).  Same thing for the various white balances, although much of the scene was lit under high-pressure sodium vapor lamps which are nearly impossible to white balance, due to their spectral output.  It’s light nerd stuff I won’t get into here.   Anyway, back at the office I processed all the exposures and pulled an under-, over-, and properly exposed frame from each composition.  I then layered those and used masks to tonemap the final image, which has greater highlight and shadow detail than any single exposure I captured.

All in all a great challenge and fun image to work on.  The image below is the magazine layout and unfortunately is quite compressed, so the detail is lacking.  I’ll post up a better shot soon.

Radiantphotography.com Oldenberg Flashlight

Oldenberg "Flashlight" image by Radiantphotography.com

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For some time we’ve debated whether to use a contact form on our main website, like we do at whiteproductphotography.com.  Years ago, people weren’t familiar with them enough, so to use one would have seemed a bit stand-offish.  Now people fill them out on a nearly daily basis, so we’re interested in the pros and cons of using a contact form versus putting text-based contact info out there for clients to use.

Pros:
– A contact form can act as a screening pre-qualifier for potential clients.  Someone who invests the 30 seconds to enter their contact information and reason for contacting you has already shown you they’re serious about having a dialogue with you.  A contact form can screen out tire-kickers.

– Contact forms still make pretty good spam filters.  Putting your email address out there either as text or a “mailto:” hyperlink can quickly turn your inbox into a spam-infested mess.  Spam bots scour the net looking for uses of mailto links and text with the @ sign, hoping to get a viable address to send junk mail to.  Sometimes you can curb this by typing your email address as “myname[at]domain.com”, but you’re still forcing your client to manually enter the correct version into their email client before hitting send.  A contact form isn’t foolproof, as spammers have more sophisticated bots now, but it cuts down on the spam significantly.  More info below.

– Contact forms can make it easier for a visitor to give you feedback about your site.  Rather than hassle with an email to let you know you have a typo on your About Us page, they can simply fill out the form and go on with their day.

– Contact forms can be tracked and analyzed.  A contact form can be used as a conversion goal in Google Analytics and other tracking programs, so you know how many people make it to your contact form and how many then use it.  You can also use contact forms to more easily send an autoresponder to the client, letting them know you got their message.  You can do this with incoming emails as well, but it usually involves creating a special email address to receive those inquiries and then autorespond.  Then you use your regular email address to further communicate with the client, which can be confusing.

Cons:
– Contact forms can look impersonal on an artist’s or small business site.  When someone is hiring you to perform a service, they may expect you to appear available.  A contact form can seem a bit corporate to some clients, and they’d really prefer to see your phone number, address, email and such on your website.

– Contact forms may not format right across all browsers.  This isn’t as big of a deal now as it used to be, but depending on your contact form platform and coding, some browsers and mobile devices may not display your form as you had planned.  If you’re a design snob and that one drop down menu simply has to be in a particular location, a contact form may not be for you.

– Contact forms are still a source of spam.  As mentioned above, contact forms can still fall victim to spam bots.  It’s a good idea to use a CAPTCHA image for clients to verify they are real humans, before submitting the form.  This can prevent most spam from making it through.

CAPTCHA

In our opinion, it would seem that the benefits of a contact form outweigh the negatives, and Radiant Photography will be converting to a contact form system soon.  But we’re interested in your thoughts.  Did we miss a pro or con here?  Do you use, or refuse to use, a contact form and why?

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